Guest post by Education writer Gerald Haigh
In the various blogs and articles I’ve written during 2013 I have concentrated, perhaps inevitably, on devices and systems – tablets, hybrids, Windows 8, the various features of Office 365, SharePoint. In the process, I’ve learned from some fascinating people. So I thought at this, the turning of the year, you might allow me to mention one or two of them again, without having to dwell too much on the techie things that they taught me. But where do I start? Or rather, with whom?
Why not with Kirsty Tonks, E-Learning Director at Shireland Collegiate Academy? If you want someone who knows how to put learning first, with technology in support, then look no further. She fizzes with enthusiasm for learning, is ever ready to talk about it, and has as complete an understanding as you could find of what technology for learning is all about. A phone conversation with Kirsty is as good as a CPD course I’d say.
She started her career, I notice, in primary, and as a one-time primary person myself I’d say that it shows. I’ve met numerous secondary heads over the years who have spoken about the value of bringing teachers on board from the primary sector. But then, it probably works the other way too. There are secondary teachers who have a lot to offer in primary classrooms and staffrooms. Maybe school leaders need to be a bit more adventurous about appointing from other sectors – and teachers a bit bolder about applying.
Kirsty’s one of a number of people I spoke to during the year about some of the quite dramatic changes that are happening to technology in school. We’re moving to a world of one-to-one devices, software on tap from the cloud, anytime anywhere learning, transformation of communication, all neatly delivered with Office 365.
Among other Office 365 enthusiasts I ought to mention Tom Mannion of St Birinus School in Didcot. Tom’s role is to lead colleagues through the school’s implementation of Civica’s Office 365, SharePoint 2013 –based ‘Cloudbase’ learning environment. As an Advanced Skills Teacher he has an interesting and, I guess, slightly unusual job, a mixture of coaching, troubleshooting, motivating, supporting, persuading – very much centred on people rather than technology. Although he certainly has to know about the technology and what it can do.
What I liked about Tom was the amount of confidence he shows in his colleagues, encouraging them to take ‘no blame’ risks with ICT in their lessons. There’s a fine line to tread here, because if people experience failure it can make them reluctant to try again, but I just get the feeling from Tom that he’ll carry people along, convincing them that everything will be fine, and if it isn’t, no worries, he’ll help them to sort it out.
Another enthusiastic evangelist I came across isn’t a teacher at all. Angela Bingham is Admissions and Customer Service Manager at West Suffolk College. In the highly competitive Further Education world, her combination of responsibilities is a very big deal – Angela looks after the enrolment of 2,500 students each year, and her main working tool is one of the Surface tablets that the College chose instead of iPads. She takes hers to meetings, constantly using OneNote to keep her notes and action points organised. Now she’s convincing everyone she meets that Surface is the tablet they need.
‘I’m not a techie,’ She says, in the blog I wrote back in April, ‘I was a notebook and pen person. With the ‘Surface RT’ you need only limited training and then you’re ready to go.’
Quite a few FE Colleges have taken to Windows 8 tablets. Liverpool Community College, for example, bought a large number of Lenovo tablets, and I talked to one lecturer – John Bainbridge in Business Studies -- who found that his new ability to record video and audio of students talking about their work was making a huge difference to the assessment process. His excitement on the phone was a real pleasure to experience.
‘Some students who were going to fail will pass. Some who were going to pass will get merits. Some who were going to get merits will get distinctions, ’ said John.
‘Some students who were going to fail will pass. Some who were going to pass will get merits. Some who were going to get merits will get distinctions, ’ said John.
What better testimonial could Microsoft and Lenovo have than that?
What better testimonial could Microsoft and Lenovo have than that?
The biggest delight of all, of course, has been meeting students. They’re always well ahead of the game when it comes to technology. What a pleasure it was, for example, to see the Kodu Kup competition, in July, won by an all girl team from Afon Taf High School, whose presentation included an impassioned plea for more gender equality in the programming industry. The teams were wonderfully looked after at Thames Valley Park with lots of child-centred refreshments.
‘Put your hand up if you had four chocolate lollies’, said Microsoft's Stuart Ball whose good-humoured hosting was great to see. I love the fact that he took all the entrants out for a walk while the judges conferred.
Then there were Kodu experts at Dunstall Hill primary in Wolverhampton, competing to create the most ferocious game they could manage.
‘It’s called “Mission Impossible”, because it is,’ one child said, of his friend’s creation.
Most impressive of all, perhaps, were the presentations made to Microsoft visitors by the young digital leaders at Priory School in Portsmouth last May. The best bit, I’d say, was Robbie, of Year Nine explaining the school’s move to ‘Bring Your Own Device’
‘There used to be a “no phones” policy and now laptops, tablets and mobiles are widely accepted,’ said Robbie. ‘We helped with that, and Mr Rogers (a teacher) was the engine to make it happen. It was a matter of convincing everyone, changing opinions.’
Oh to have been a fly on the wall…..
Robbie and his friends also told us about the Priory school bench – the only school bench in the world with its own Twitter account (‘ @priorybench I’m in the hall, come sit on me.’) The bench seems to have gone to sleep since May, incidentally, which seems a shame.
Looking at what I’ve written here, and then at the notes I’ve made on my various jobs during the year, it hardly seems fair that I’ve mentioned so few people. There been so many great encounters you see, with teachers, leaders, support staff, Microsoft friends, Microsoft partner businesses, the list goes on. What a privilege it is to poke my nose into the working and learning lives of our nation’s educators. And what a wealth there is out there of talent, expertise, good humour and dedication to the task of improving the life chances of our young people. All I can do is tell the stories, spread the word a bit. So now I look forward to 2014, and the chance to meet old friends again and make lots of new ones.
From all of us at Microsoft Education we wish you a very Merry Christmas, and look forward to connecting in the New Year.
Guest post written by Education writer Gerald Haigh.
West Wycombe Combined School, a one-form entry primary school of approximately 200 children, uses Microsoft technology and up-to-date hardware to improve its ICT infrastructure, save money and reduce its carbon footprint.
If you put in more computers, then your electricity bill will go up and, inevitably, so will your carbon footprint. Isn’t that obvious?
Well, actually no. If you are replacing old equipment with new and – here’s the key point – if you make the right choices of software and hardware then both the financial and environmental costs can go down even if you substantially expand your computing infrastructure.
Right from the introduction of Windows 7, through into Windows 8, schools have reported energy savings from their new systems. In the Summer of 2013, a decision by West Wycombe Combined School to renew its IT infrastructure provided the ideal opportunity to gather supporting ‘before and after’ figures on energy use and carbon emissions.
Help the planet and save money
Alison Cobb, West Wycombe’s head, was clear from the start that energy efficiency was high on the agenda for the new installation.
‘We wanted eco-friendly machines, to minimise noise, and, of course electricity consumption,’ she says.
The school’s existing provision of 38 desktop machines was eight years old, running Windows XP. A computer suite of fifteen machines served all curriculum needs.
Over the 2013 Summer holidays, the IT provision was completely replaced by ‘Turn IT On’, specialists in IT supply and support for primary schools. www.turniton.co.uk
‘We ordered fifty computers,’ says Alison Cobb. ‘Our site isn’t physically suited to laptop trolleys so we kept the computer suite but with thirty machines instead of fifteen – one for each child. We added a new computer in each of our seven classrooms, and three in the library. The remainder are for administration and staff use. ‘
By September, IT provision was transformed – a completely new Windows 7 wireless network, with a new up to date Microsoft server, 50 computers instead of 38, including a computer suite with 30 desktops instead of 15. But would the aim of reducing energy use be achieved? And by how much?
‘Turn IT On’, always focused on value for money, were confident of the potential of their installation, and contacted Microsoft. As a result, the Microsoft UK Education and Environmental Sustainability team made careful measurements and calculations of both the previous and the new installations.
The results, make reading that’s both surprising and very encouraging for any school looking at a significant IT upgrade. Headline comparative figures show that West Wycombe’s old system cost £2,164 annually to run while the annual cost of the new system, by contrast, will be £1086. The comparative before and after figures for CO2 emissions are, respectively 12,409 and 5,747 kg.
Those figures cover the whole of the IT infrastructure, including laptops, projectors, server and routers. In each case, the new/old comparisons consistently show energy costs and emissions halved. As you’d expect, though, the biggest cost is that of the school’s network of desktop computers. Previously, under the old system, 38 desktops were costing £1598 a year to run, accounting for 9,158kg of CO2 emissions. Now, 50 desktops will cost £729 a year, with 3,996 kg of CO2. (A case study with more detail is in preparation. We’ll be giving a link when it’s available.)
Brett and Harry add pupil voice
Two of West Wycombe’s year six pupils, Brett and Harry have done their own analysis, adding detail to the conclusions by providing costs related just to the computer suite and making environmental comparisons.
‘New PCs use about half the power of our old PCs,’ they conclude, pointing out that the new suite, with 30 computers, will cost £667 a year, which is less than the £694 cost of the 15 machines in the old suite. Brett and Harry have also usefully put the CO2 emission figures in proportion with a number of examples. In one, they demonstrate, for example, that the old suite of 15 machines was responsible for one whole car’s worth of CO2, almost twice as much as their new suite of 30.
Click here to view Brett and Harry’s presentation.
How it is achieved
There are two related factors at work. One is that Windows 7 and 8 were developed with power-saving in mind – they process data more efficiently, using less electricity than any of their predecessors. They also incorporate power management features, ensuring that devices are switched off when they’re not being used. At the same time, the latest hardware is more energy-efficient than the equipment that’s being replaced. Added together, the impact on a school which, in common with all schools is both highly budget-conscious and environmentally responsible is very significant. West Wycombe’s saving of £1078 a year is a welcome teaching and learning bonus of £154 for each of its seven classes. ‘Turn IT On’ Commercial Manager Nigel Starkey says,
‘This project has clearly demonstrated how new equipment with the right level of support and training can not only raise standards of teaching and learning in a school, but also save schools significant sums of money year on year."
West Wycombe’s new system, quite apart from saving money and being eco-friendly, is having a significant effect on teaching and learning. As Alison Cobb says, a computer suite of 15 desktops, with two children working together on each can work, but there is very little leeway.
‘The suite was four years old, and there were times when some didn’t work and so there would be three on a computer. Now, teachers say it is a joy to teach with each child on their own machine. It is definitely impacting on teaching and learning.’
‘Turn IT On’ www.turniton.co.uk
Monday morning madness
Monday 9th December welcomed a peaceful morning, with Winter sunshine lazily falling through the windows of the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, gilding the Microsoft Education stand. With the Tablets for Schools Conference just an hour from commencing, the Microsoft Education team logistically (and mentally) prepped themselves for what was soon to be an exciting, and, admittedly, slightly frenetic buzz of activity.
By 8.30am, half an hour before the conference officially started, the queue of schools lining up at the Microsoft stand was impressive, and would have potentially challenged that of a Euro Disney roller-coaster ride at the same time in the morning…
And round the corner…
Why the queuing?
We are delighted to announce that for the first time, just under 300 schools attending the Tablet for Schools Conference were each given a free Surface RT, complete with touch keyboard, by Microsoft Education to take back to the classroom. You might be asking yourself, why would Microsoft gave away FREE devices? After all, there's no such thing as a free lunch!
Well as it happens, there can be, and the reason is simple - educating the young and talented leaders of the future. We strongly believe that technology can empower students from a young age to have a more equal education, appealing to all the different learning styles, and therefore inspire more young people to grasp opportunities in higher education and pursue fulfilling careers.
To expand, Microsoft Education have heavily invested in providing students around the UK with opportunities to enhance their learning at schools, with resources such as Education Apps to engage learning across the curriculum, Kodu, simple game-creation software using image coding to design games, to DreamSpark which provides students with professional-level coding and programming software to build apps for the Windows 8 store and create games. These resources are simultaneously, importantly designed for teachers to use to populate lessons with fun and engaging tools.
With an abundance of free solutions available to students and teachers, we are passionate about providing students and teachers with a suitable platform to be able to bring to life these resources in school and beyond, via our flexible work/play Surfaces and Windows 8 devices.
The beauty of the Surface RT and Surface 2 is that not only do they come with great features such as Windows 8/8.1, Office 365 and its fantastic apps (Lync, Word, Excel, OneNote etc), but the tablet will support programmes such as Kodu and Touch Develop for students to directly code and design apps from their Surface. So no longer is there a need to have two devices to work and play!
The Tablet for Schools Conference welcomed in teachers from schools from all over the UK to provide them with practical experience for using tablets in the classroom.
Tablets for Schools have spent two years researching and providing thought leadership on the use of tablets in schools, and their recent Stage 3 report examines their impact.
The conference provided a variety of speeches from the likes of Rt Hon David Blunkett (former Secretary of State for Education), insightful workshops and exhibitioners to educate teachers on the diverse and practical ways that tablets can be used in the classroom and the importance they play in Education today.
The Microsoft Stand
At the Microsoft Education stand, we demoed some of our most efficient Windows 8 devices, such as the Surface Pro 2, the Lenovo Yoga ultrabook, the Dell XPS DUO 12, the Acer S7 ultrabook and Acer W510P tablet. The delegates were able to see some of the unique Windows 8.1 features such as the 'Split Screen' feature, enabling students and teachers to have two documents/browser pages/apps open at the same time - ideal for researching while writing essays or reports.
Along with the 300 Surfaces which we gave out to schools, we provided our Surface RT User Guide and usb sticks with some great and useful Microsoft Education resources, whose location are listed below in our Starter Guide:
Opportunities to come and try out Windows 8.1 devices at BETT Show
Microsoft Education will be showcasing at BETT Show from 22nd-25th January at the Excel Centre, where a vast array of our Windows 8.1 devices, Windows 8.1 apps and solutions will all be on show for you to come and try out for yourself.
We look forward to seeing you there!
With Christmas just around the corner I thought a festive treat was needed for our e-zine readers. I have scanned all of Microsoft’s educational offerings and put together a software and resource overview. I’m calling it the one stop blog for all you need to know about what we do for teachers and schools and where to go to find out more. I’ll be back in the new year with more e-zines to share, but in the meantime enjoy this festive edition and have a great seasonal break!! Mandeep.
Accessibility: A Guide for Educators
Assistive technologies can help make the educational environment more accessible for students who have special learning needs. Use this teacher’s guide to find out how.
Amazon Kindle® for PC
Find out everything you need to get started with Amazon Kindle, from compatibility and installation, to registration and paying for downloads.
Create photo collages with your students to use as posters, covers for projects or mementos of school outings. All they have to do is pick a folder, press a button, and in a few minutes AutoCollage creates a collage.
This is a great way to make history or geography come to life. Simply select a location and explore cities at eye level and in 3D. Download Microsoft® Silverlight® for a richer experience.
Microsoft® Chemistry add-in
Empowering students, teachers and chemists to easily author documents in the language of chemistry.
Complimentary download which develops interactive timelines unifying the four major historic regimes of Cosmic, Earth, Life and Human History, up to the present.
Microsoft Community Clips
The Community Clips screen recorder can be downloaded here.
DeforestACTION is a not-for-profit partnership between NGOs, Microsoft and schools, that involves young people from across the globe using technology to collaborate in solving one of the world’s most pressing issues ... deforestation.
Devices in Education - For Senior Managers and IT Pros
Devices in Education - Educators
Devices in Education - Secondary Student
Devices in Education - Primary Student
Microsoft® Digital Literacy
Teach and assess basic, everyday computer concepts and skills. Choose from three course– performance levels: Basic, Standard and Advanced.
DreamSpark is simple; it’s about giving students Microsoft professional tools at no charge.
Microsoft® Education Labs
Test out software prototypes designed specifically for the education sector by both community members and Microsoft product teams. It’s a great chance to provide feedback that will shape the technology of the future.
Microsoft UK Education Free Resources App
Teacher guides, complimentary software applications and online resources as well as news and teacher blogs.
Microsoft® Faculty Connection
Training resources, software and tools, news, publications and downloads.
Flashcards is a Microsoft® Silverlight® Web application where you can create, share, and study online flashcards. Find a deck in the community, or create your own.
The Imagine Cup is the world’s premier student technology competition, open to students over 16. Every year, the Imagine Cup encourages students from all around the globe to come up with creative ideas using technology to help solve the world’s toughest issues.
InkSeine is a prototype ink application from Microsoft Research. It is designed from the ground up to have a user interface uniquely tailored to pen input.
Microsoft® Interactive Classroom
Create in-class polls and share them over a wireless network in real time. Plus share notes and content with students during lessons using Microsoft® OneNote®.
Microsoft® IT Academy
Subscribe your institution to comprehensive IT training, resources and Microsoft certification opportunities.
A great site for your students with fantastic tips and tricks, answers to all kinds of questions, kids’ courses and a secure place to connect with other students.
Kodu is a new visual programming language made specifically for creating games. It is designed to be accessible for children and enjoyable for anyone. The programming environment runs on the Microsoft® Xbox® or PC, allowing rapid design iteration using a game controller (or keyboard) for input.
Learning Content Development System (LCDS)
Create and publish high-quality, interactive, online courses including interactive activities, quizzes, games, assessments, animations, demos and other multimedia.
A multimedia and animation tool that lets students create animated stories using avatars.
Microsoft Mathematics 4.0
Plot graphs in 2D and 3D, calculate numerical results, solve equations or inequalities, and simplify algebraic expressions in Microsoft Word® and OneNote®.
Microsoft® Mouse Mischief™
Allows you to create Office PowerPoint® presentations that children can interact with in class using multiple mice.
Microsoft Office 365 Education
Provide staff, faculty, and students at your school with free email, sites, online document editing and storage, IM, and web conferencing.
Microsoft® Partners in Learning Network
Join the global community of educators who value innovative uses of information and communication technology that improve learning outcomes. Collaborate with like-minded colleagues; participate in discussions and accessing lesson plans, tools and more.
Microsoft® Partners in Learning School Research
Microsoft’s Partners in Learning School Research is a self-assessment survey research system that helps educators and school leaders understand and measure innovative teaching practices.
Microsoft® Partners in Learning Expert Educator Program
A site dedicated specifically for inspired teachers. Find out how you can become involved in the Microsoft Partners in Learning program and teachers awards.
Students can reconstruct a scene or an object in 3D from photographs and publish it over the Internet.
Microsoft® Pro Photo Tools version 2
Find the tools for editing metadata in photographs including latitude, longitude and other location details.
This complimentary download* works with Microsoft® Office PowerPoint® to let you zoom in and out of slide sections and move directly between slides that are not sequential in your presentation.
Microsoft® Ribbon Hero™
A game for Office Word, PowerPoint, and Excel® 2007 and 2010, designed to help you or your students boost your Microsoft Office skills and knowledge in a fun way.
Microsoft® Security Essentials
Provides real-time protection for your home PC that guards against viruses, spyware, and other malicious software. It’s always kept up to date making it easy to tell if your PC is secure — when you’re green, you’re good. It’s that simple.
Microsoft® Touch Pack for Windows® 7
This site offers a collection of Microsoft games and applications for your multi-touch PCs and laptops running Windows 7, including Surface Globe – a program that you can use to explore the earth as a flat 2D or immersive 3D experience.
Microsoft® Worksheet Generator
Create your own maths worksheets in minutes. You can generate multiple maths problems based on a sample – from basic arithmetic through to algebra.
Skype in the classroom
Meet new people, discover new cultures and connect with classes from around the world, all without leaving the classroom.
Windows Live® Essentials
Free versions of Microsoft programs for photos, movies, instant messaging, email, blogging and more. Get them all in one easy download*.
Windows Live® Movie Maker
A fast, easy way to turn photos and video clips into great-looking movies and slideshows that you can share with students, other faculty or on the Web.
Windows Live® Photo Gallery
This complimentary download* lets you load photos and videos from a camera to PCs. You can crop, recolor and retouch photos to create impressive panoramic.
Windows Live® Writer
A complimentary blogging tool for students. They can share comment, photos and videos on almost any blog service: Windows Live®, WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad and many more.
Windows Media® Centre
Turn a classroom PC into a TV, where you can play videos and music.
This amazing virtual telescope brings together imagery from ground and space telescopes from around the world, so students can explore the galaxy, the solar system, the planets and their moons.
A complimentary service for viewing and sharing high-res imagery. Give us the link to any image and we give you a beautiful new way to experience it — along with a nice short URL.
Monday morning at Golightly Academy, and a teacher on a mission pops in to see the head.
‘Elspeth, Now we have Office 365, I think we could rethink the whole of the school’s online presence. For example, we can have a portal.
‘A portal. Of you could call it a gateway if you like. I was talking to some of the staff from St Mary’s at the weekend. They’ve got this great thing going. The students log in first thing and there’s their own personalised page, with links they can click on to all sorts of stuff. It has reminders of their timetable, when course work’s due. They can change it to suit themselves, with their own profile, and it looks really good, branded with the school logo and everything. The staff have their own version, with timetables, meeting notifications, anything they need. It all looks great.’
‘How do you know?’
‘I saw it.’
‘What, you went to St Mary’s?
‘No, Jack Wilkins, the deputy, showed it me on his phone in the pub.’
‘How could he do that?’
‘Because the whole thing is on the internet. The users can get to it with their own password with any device that will get them on line – computer, tablet, phone. Students think it’s very cool and 21st Century. Jack Wilkins logs in on the way to school. He has a lift with another teacher so he can sit there getting an idea of what’s going to be happening that day, and adding announcements if necessary. Gives him a great start. Then there’s parent access.’
‘That sounds good. Time we improved home-school links.’
‘Well, this way, we give parents access to their own part of the portal, so they can keep up to date on their children’s progress and find out what’s going on. We’ll save on efficiency and paper, and generally be much more parent friendly.’
‘All well and good, but a bit of a headache for our lot in the IT department. Sounds expensive too. The guys downstairs will be asking for money for new servers and software what have you, and frankly we have little slack in the budget.’
‘Now, Elspeth, here’s the good news. We won’t need new servers, in fact we won’t need anything in school, because the whole lot is based on Microsoft Office 365. It’s a cloud service hosted by Microsoft, free to schools.’
‘When you say free……?
Office 365 is free to schools. That saves a huge amount of money in equipment and maintenance. To be realistic, we’ll probably need to pay for consultancy and expertise to get the portal tailored for us.
That’s what St Mary’s did and they feel it was a good cost-effective decision because what they now have is proving to be a great boost for the students and the staff. They waste less time and work more efficiently. And in the end they’ll save on paper and printing.’
This scenario was put together with advice from Steve Eyton-Jones, Professional Services Director of Microsoft Partner ‘Novotronix’.
Journey Around London has been written for Year 1 but can be adapted for any age-group within Key Stage 1 and 2. The scheme of work is primarily literacy based however incorporates humanities and ICT. Students write a fiction and non-fiction book combined about the town where they live. In order to write the content, they use Windows 8 apps, One Note and Microsoft Office to support their learning. The scheme of work utilises all of the 21st Century Learning skills required to help ensure our learners are ready for the future.
Sample of SoW:
You can download the full SoW for FREE here
Educator Spotlight: Charlotte Beckhurst
My day job is class teacher and Technology Lead at Hartsbrook E-ACT Free School. We were the first primary school in the UK to use Windows 8. Our students as young as 5 use a range of Windows 8 apps to enhance and scaffold their learning in key subject areas. I shared my ICT practise with educators locally, nationally and globally as well as heard from other educators who were doing similar things in their own classrooms.
The rest of the time I undertake various roles and responsibilities as a M.I.E. This means I deliver training in schools, share practise, and work in partnership with Toshiba and generally work together with Microsoft to promote technology in schools as a tool for developing 21st Century Learning Skills in the students of today and the adults of our future.
Check out Charlotte’s interview on Anthony Salcito’s Daily Edventures
The folks over at Microsoft Press have created this awesome eBook titled ‘Introducing Windows Azure for IT Professionals’.
Whether you are new to Azure or already using it within your institution, this eBook is packed full of useful content that can help guide and shape your use of Azure moving forward.
Account written by Ross Lowe, 13 year old developer.
Initially, when presented with the task of creating an app for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8, it all seemed a bit daunting. Whilst I have been programming on Windows for many years, I recently made the switch from Windows to mac. I also began to develop for iOS. So creating apps for windows required me to first understand Windows 8, then to understand a relatively new programming language.
Some say that Windows 8 has 'a steep learning curve', but I beg to differ. Using the Operating System with a mouse was not alien to me, and all previous Windows users should find the transformation a doddle. Sure, it has a new start screen. Sure, some things are different. But many of us have the idea that change is bad - myself, previously, included.
I had the idea for the second app, 'face the facts', when walking between lessons at school. It was a "wouldn't it be cool if..." moment, and that night I had made an early concept. Thinking about it, it is revolutionary that now even a child can come up with an idea, and after a couple of days bring it to life using the powerful tools provided by Visual Studio - although I have been programming for many years, a complete beginner could write an app in TouchDevelop or ZippApp. And with DreamSpark, teachers can literally provide everything students need to start making stunning content (the next killer app?) in minutes.
I am still working on my apps, but I am pleased with progress so far.
It has only been a few weeks, and yet in that time I have learnt Windows 8.1, C#, and partially made two apps. Every child could make an app - I would have been so excited by the concept of making apps in my ICT class and seeing whose got most downloads.
I am loving every minute of developing for Windows, and whilst this may sound a bit cliché, it is ultimately true: when creating apps for Windows using some of the many tools available, the only limit is your imagination.
Guest Post by Education Writer Gerald Haigh
A class seating plan is usually some handwritten names and ruled lines on a sheet of A4. Even in that form it’s useful enough to cause extreme annoyance and some irritating mistakes if goes missing from the teacher’s desk.
Suppose, though, that simple plan became a source of up to date information about the class. How much more valuable would it be then? If you like that idea, here’s a school that’s turning it into reality with the help of SharePoint 2013 and Microsoft Partner Novotronix www.novotronix.com
Teachers like seating plans. With an up to date seating plan on the desk, and a rule that says children have fixed places in class you can use names, even if the class is unfamiliar. That’s really important for class management especially if you’re new, or in on supply.
‘Thank you James, that’s a great answer.’
‘Julie, just turn round will you, and try paying attention? Thank you.’
But suppose this unfamiliar class has done a bit of surreptitious – and subversive -- swapping around.
‘I’m not Julie, Miss. I’m Darren!’ (Cue raucous laughter and tasteless transgender jokes.)
What could you do to prevent that? Perhaps by sticking photographs to the seating plan. That could work. But it’s a lot of fiddly work for somebody, given the number of classes and teaching groups involved.
Still, maybe you do that. Then a little later you say
‘Marcus! Sit up straight and stop fidgeting!’
And a rather embarrassed child further along the row puts a hand to the side of her mouth and says, ‘Miss, Marcus has a bit of a problem. He has this disability. Most of the teachers know about him. And now he’s crying. I think you’d better talk to him.’
No, a seating plan is fine, but what you want is one that’s easy to create, easy to change, and carries a lot of up to date information. It would be good if you could carry it around, too. Look at those requirements and you can see that the answer lies in technology.
What you need, in fact, is being developed by Microsoft Partner Novotronix at Kingsdown School in Swindon, using SharePoint 2013. Their application will enable a teacher to create his or her own seating plan by dragging and dropping names from a list into a blank ‘classroom’ in whatever order is required.
The real value of this, however, lies in the way that the names, are drawn from the school’s management information system (Capita’s ‘SIMS’ in this case) and presented as drag-and-drop ‘tiles’. As well as the student’s name, the tile has a photograph and other essential details including special needs. Perhaps most importantly, each tile can be colour coded to show the student’s progress against expected grades, so the whole seating plan shows an immediate picture of the progress of the class. All of this information is automatically updated from the management information system.
So, on the one hand a teacher, perhaps at the start of a year, can ‘build’ a class, studying individual needs, looking at relationships and ensuring that each student is sitting in the best place for their learning.
And on the other hand a new teacher who, at least for the moment, has to take the class as it is, can spend perhaps just five minutes ahead of the lesson reading the basic data about each student, so as to be ahead of the game when the lesson starts. The seating plan is available of course, anytime, anywhere on the teacher’s device.
Kingsdown’s seating plan tool, important though it surely is, forms just part of a whole range of Microsoft technology which the school uses to empower teachers and help children to learn more effectively.
SharePoint 2013, of course, is available with Office 365, making it very affordable for schools.